We see initially a seemingly floating head of a woman, with a sombre expression. She is surrounded by wavy lines which appear to perhaps signal movement, or instead the sky behind. Her face is directly over a narrow vase-like piece of pottery which we then understand to be the urn, as mentioned in the title. At the bottom are several nude young women, seemingly in dire straits. There is an atmosphere of sadness throughout this piece, and perhaps mourning and tragedy, symbolised by the urn and its obvious connection to death. Munch made use of these negative emotions within his work many times and they reflected his own problems that persisted throughout his childhood. Many experts in the field of mental health will point to childhood experiences as being key to later problems and in the case of Munch he would lose several members of his family and then seek solace in a combination of his own art, as well as alcohol.
This artwork is dated at 1896 and in this year Munch would produce a large number of lithographs along similar lines to this. He focused on negative aspects of the mind and some of the worst and deepest emotions of the mind. He made use of different techniques within his career for lithographs, and even worked on a stone at one point. The inspiration for the design found here was Baudelaire´s poem Les Fleurs du Mal, with literature having served as the starting point for many artists across the 19th century. The piece found here was placed onto brown cardboard and can now be found in the collecton of the Munch Museum in Oslo, which remains the first place to go for those looking to understand his career. It is also planning a new venue for the collection fairly soon.
Munch was a part of the Expressionist movement and was able to inspire many other members of this approximate collection of like-minded individuals. They were spread right across Europe, though Germany was a particularly important region, gifting us the likes of Marc and Kirchner. Munch was someone who also liked to carry these style across to a number of different mediums, with the lithographs found here joined by hundreds of oil paintings and also many more traditional drawings. He worked in portraiture and understood the importance of practice in order to master this challenging discipline. His generous bequeth of work at the time of his death and ensured much of his oevure remains together and relatively well documented.